Port Townsend Library Board considering renovation proposal
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Port Townsend Library Adult Services Director Cris Wilson addresses the Library Board in a presentation about the plans to move back into the Carnegie Building. Technical Services Director Keith Darrock is in the background. -- Photo by Charlie Bermant/Peninsula Daily News

By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News

PORT TOWNSEND — The Port Townsend Library Board is considering a plan for remodeling the downstairs of the Carnegie Library in hopes of presenting a recommendation to the City Council by March.

The board heard a staff presentation of a remodeling proposal Friday and will refine it over the next few months, said Jennifer Cohn, board chair.

It is a scaled-down version of original plans, which were dependent upon passage of a $3 million bond to support a $4.3 million expansion of the Carnegie Library portion of the complex at 1220 Lawrence St.

Voters rejected the proposed bond in August, with more than 60 percent of the ballots against the measure.

The new proposal has dropped the idea of expansion and focuses on renovation.

It includes a redesigned circulation desk in a central location and lower, more accessible shelves in the children’s room.

The upstairs of the Carnegie would house some specialty collections.

The small director’s office would be unchanged but the new layout would give employees a break room, which they haven’t had for years.

The library moved from its location at 1220 Lawrence St., in April 2012 into rooms at the Mountain View Campus, 1919 Blaine St., that once served as the school cafeteria.

The library stayed in its temporary location beyond the expected eight months when expansion advocates sought to find funding for the full renovation with the bond issue.

Upon the measure’s defeat, City Manager David Timmons said that work would begin on a new plan.

If the City Council approves a recommended plan, work could begin late this spring, with a return to the library site later in the year, Cohn said.

Since the project hasn’t been defined, the cost isn’t now available but will be part of the package presented to the City Council, Cohn said.

Once those figures are approved, the city will then find ways to secure the needed funds, either from the existing library budget, the city budget or through grants, according to Public Works Director Ken Clow.

“They’ll develop a plan and then we’ll identify things that need to be done and determine what the library will be, and then we’ll identify how to accomplish them, and then we have to go out and find funding for them,” Clow said.

Clow, who has managed the renovation project, said the city won’t be involved before the recommendation is submitted.

Some grant money is still available but it requires a match and is restricted to the Carnegie building. It cannot be used for the new addition.

When the Port Townsend Library finally moves back, it will regain its position as a community gathering place, according to the staff presentation.

“I’m no longer worried about moving back into the Carnegie and having it be worse than when we left,” Adult Services Director Cris Wilson said.

“We’ve reimagined the space and have made it exciting.

“We’ve always been the little library that could.

”When we reopen, we will go back to being a place where you’ll bump into a lot of people you know and will become someplace that you can go all the time.”

The building now has two sections: the Carnegie portion that has a large community room on the second floor above what will become the new children’s room.

The remainder of the building, which was constructed in 1989, will house adult collections.

During the closure, much of the library’s holdings have been held off-site and made available at the patron’s request.

This process would continue.

“We’ll be moving the lower circulating items off site, not because they are unimportant but because they take up space,” Wilson said.

“In these cases, the books will be available but people will need to wait a day to get them.”

Also to be addressed is the hiring of a new director to replace Teresa Percy, who retired in July after an employee complained about allegedly inappropriate behavior regarding efforts to support the bond measure.

Percy was replaced on an interim basis by Beverly Shelton, who helped to develop the plan submitted to the board on Friday.

Cohn said a committee will work to refine the job description for the director’s post this weekend and it will be addressed at a special meeting at 3 p.m. Tuesday in the third-floor conference room of City Hall, 250 Madison St.

After the job description is completed, it will be submitted to the City Council for approval and then posted.

Cohn thinks a new director could be hired in the spring.

A nationwide search probably will be conducted, Cohn said, with the job also open to internal candidates.

The board’s recommendation will be advisory, as the final hiring decision will be made by Timmons.

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Jefferson County Editor Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or cbermant@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: January 11. 2014 6:27PM
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